As a console gamer I have always thought that building a PC was far too hard, or troublesome, or expensive. But I have to admit that I keep seeing these adds for really cheap computer deals all the time. So thought to prove once and for all that PC building is a complete waste of time I felt the need to write this guide for those that don't have a clue or might be thinking of building one.
List of Items that You Most Likely have Laying Around
- Key Board: any 'ol keyboard will due. USB is perferrable. $10 or less.
- Mouse: for gaming a 5 button or 7 button is best. A gaming quality mouse is Overrated and not need. $20 to $60
- Monitor: Your flat panel TV will do just fine, but a decent 22" 1680 x 1050 res monitor can be bought for $180 or less. A typical TN panel is fine, but you can always pay more.
- ATX or Micro ATX case: This had been the form factor standard since the mid to late 90's. If you need a new one it may cost $70 to $200
- Optical Drive: DVD = $30 and Blue Ray = $120
List of Items You Might have Laying Around
- OS (Operating System): Older OS should work just fine and you should be able to transfer it to a new system. However flat out buying windows can be expensive. $90 - $200
- Hard Drive: you might have one or two. A single 1TB costs about $85 or less
- Power Supply: these sometimes come in cases. A nice new one can be had for $80
List of Items you Will Need
- Motherboard: many different options. $100 - $300
- RAM: 2-4 Gigs is nice. $100
- Processor: many to choose from. ~$150
- Video Card: many many options here. $90 - $450+
The most cost effective system maybe outdated. Technically any system you build is outdated, but I consider something outdated that cannot be used reasonably for 3-4 years without replacement.
Step One: The Heart of the System
The heart of the system is the Mother Board, Processor, and RAM. These usually have to be bought together. For Intel there are three different types of MB. X series, P series, and G series. X is more expensive and G is usually less. A decent P (the mainstream)series can be bought for about $120 and can be over clocked well to boot. The question is what type of processor? There are two types: 775 and 1156. The number is associated with the type of socket the MB and processor share. 1156 is newer and 775 is older, but both allow for good gaming. I would suggest the 1156 socket that will take the newer Intel i5 or i7 Processor. The i5 can be bought for less than $190 and is a quadcore (meaning its made up of 4 separate processors). The last thing needed is the RAM. RAM is very cheap now. The older 775 uses DDR2 and the 1156 uses DDR3 type ram. Both is 240 pin. 4 gigabytes can be bought for less than $100.
Lower End: P45 Mother board, 2 Gigs DDR2 RAM, E5200 dual core processor: total cost $220
Middle Range: P55 MB, 4 Gigs of DDR3, i5 750 CPU: total cost $415
Upper End: X58 MB, 6 Gigs of DDR3, i7 920 CPU: total cost $630
Step Two: Video Power
To actually get good graphic you need a good graphics card. A video card is the single best way to get better frame rates and graphics. Frame rates are the number of frames you get per second. The higher the better. Higher frame rates equates to smoother graphics and easier play. But the higher your settings are pushed the lower the frame rates are. The three main settings that determine frame rates are resolution, particle effects, and anti-aliasing. As console gamers we can only run at an HD type resolution, but video monitors and cards can run above that. This means that computer video has the innate capacity for better graphics. But high resolution monitors are expensive. I would suggest running at either 1280x1024 or 1680 x 1050 res. Here's a link that will show frame rates for the various cards.
Lower End: 9800GT or HD4850 video card: total cost $80 to $120
Middle Range: HD4870, GTX260, HD4890, GTX275, or HD5850: total cost: $150 to $280
Upper End: GTX295 or HD5870: total cost $380 to $450
Lower End: 1280x1024 or 1920x1080 resolution: total cost $130 to $200
Middle Range: 1680x1050 or 1900x1200: total cost $200 to $350
Upper End: these are expensive $500 to $1400+
Step Three: Power Time!
To get your crappy PC to run you need a power supply unit or PSU. Some cases will have a decent one, and others will have a crappy one. The PSU is arguably the single most important component for the PC. To determine what you need, check the amperage requirements for your video card and other stuff. A 400watt to 700watt should be fine. Get a good brand but these are still cheap.
total cost $40 to $300
Step Four: Storage
Your storage comes in the format of a 3.5" HDD or Hard Disk/ Drive. I would suggest getting 2 one for your operating system and another for all your crappy PC games and naked pictures of Nick's Mom. But you don't have to, and these are now very cheap. The OS drive only needs to be 60 to 120GB or so. Your storage drive should at least be 320GB. Newer drives run on the SATA connection and older use IDE. All the MB listed above have plenty! of SATA connections and can support at least 2 IDE drives.
total cost: $90 to $300
Step Five: Accessory Action
Things like computer cases, optical drive, your mouse and keyboard can all come at a cheap price or you can go buck wild. Optical drives also can run on IDE or SATA. Be sure that you can connect enough IDE devices to a newer MB if you are using older stuff. Blue Ray drives are about $100 more than typical DVD drives at about $30. You don't need a sound card or LAN connection as most all MB now come with all that stuff integrated.
total cost: $60 to $300+
Step Six: Windows Fun!!
Now you just need an OS. You might be able to reuse an older version by transferring, but if not you can pick up XP, Vista, or Windows 7 retail or OEM versions.
total cost: $0 to $200
So basically we are done. The lower end system I specified out may not last 4 years before getting slow, but its easily and cheaply upgradable. Once the case and accessories are purchased they can last 10 years or more. A good computer case and PSU can last a long time and optical drives are always cheap and you can use ones that aren't the fastest as the performance doesn't scale that well anyway.
Total Maybe Costs (complete system including monitor)
low: $620 median: $1330
Total Absolute Costs
low: $300 median: $600